'Re-wilding’ – a wind of change gathers strength in Western Europe
Whilst wilderness is mainly associated with Northern and Eastern Europe, where the prime objective is protection of remaining great areas of natural ecology, this is increasingly complemented by re-wilding of habitats and reintroduction of species in Western Europe.
A growing number of countries are now adopting national strategies for restoration of large-scale natural ecosystems, amid increased awareness of their benefit to conservation objectives and society in general.
Austria has led the fray. In December 2014 it set a 2% target in its 2020+ National Biodiversity Strategy for wilderness and areas with wilderness characteristics. The Wild Europe definition forms the basis for wilderness in the Austrian strategy for National Parks, two of which will have core areas designated to Wild Europe criteria in 2015/16.
France is also moving ahead. A specialist group has been formed within IUCN (from 2012) to assess potential for a wilderness strategy. Also based around the Wild Europe definition, this brings together a range of experts.
More recently, but gaining momentum rapidly, Rewilding Britain was established in December 2014 from a coalition of NGOs, with Wild Europe as a trustee.
Wide welcome for Wild Europe’s old growth forest protection strategy
A significant proportion of this most fragile element of Europe’s natural heritage lacks protection.
Rising timber demand, fragmentation from new transport routes and general development pose threats which are intensifying as the recession ends. Yet all too often these are tackled piecemeal by conservationists at local level where it is difficult to muster support. Above all, there is insufficient awareness of the value of this habitat.
Wild Europe has assembled a strategy to address these issues. It covers five key areas: policy framework, protective action, management practice, long-term opportunities and funding.
The strategy is currently in its consultation phase. Feedback from forest specialists in 12 countries has so far been highly positive. We are currently seeking national champions to implement the strategy in their country. Already IUCN together with WWF are doing this in France.
Please give us your feedback on the strategy:
- Are there aspects that should be added?
- Do you know areas that are under threat?
- Would you or your organization be able to help with implementation?
Full steam ahead for Rewilding Britain
This initiative was established in 2014 from a broad-based coalition of NGOs, with Wild Europe as a trustee.
It aims to catalyse the return of large areas of fully functioning ecosystems together with their wildlife to one of Europe’s most crowded and highly developed countries - highlighting the benefits of such areas to the general public, media and decision takers in government.
By 2030, within 15 years, Rewilding Britain has set itself the target of establishing 300,000 hectares of core land, connected wherever possible, together with three marine reserves.
Rewilding in France - the first green shoots
In 2012 a specialist Wilderness Group was established, within the IUCN National Committee, to assess potential for a wilderness strategy.
This brings together a widely acknowledged range of experts from NGOs with participation by the L’Office Nacional des Forêts (ONF), the state forestry agency.
Wild Europe has been invited to participate in the IUCN France Group, regularly providing input to meetings in Paris.
Holland goes Wild – a message for developed landscapes
In the heart of Europe’s most heavily developed country, scarcely 30 klms from the centre of Amsterdam, lies a miracle of wildness.
Literally meaning “wetlands to the East” the 5,000 hectare Oostvaardersplassen was reclaimed at great expense from the sea back in 1968.
Because of its central location the site was originally designated for industry. But its importance for wildlife, and particularly waterfowl migration, rapidly became evident. It was saved from development and has now been declared a Special Protected Area (SPA) for birds and a Ramsar Site.
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Wild Europe programme 2015
2014 was another successful year for Wild Europe, with continued focus on key policy now coupled with development of model projects in the field. We have in particular sought to build common interests with organizations beyond the conservation sector.
This work will continue in 2015. During a crucial year for determining policy priorities in the face of lingering recession in much of Europe, we will place particular focus on using the socio-economic agenda to advance protection and restoration initiatives. Further information for any of our projects in available on request.
For a strategic outline see Achievements & Objectives
The Economic Benefits Group
The economic benefits group will be tasked with identifying, valuing and promoting the economic benefits of wilderness and wild areas, with focus on non extractive, no-impact benefits derived from ecotourism, ecosystem services and usage for social betterment.
The group will initially comprise business people, economists, ecosystem specialists, landowners, farmers, social enterprise entrepreneurs – all of whom share a profound regard for wilderness as well as contributing their professional expertise.
While the true intrinsic value of the wild is priceless, there is no doubt that realization of its economic value can attract support for its protection and expansion.